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12/15/2008 12:00:00 AM
Compiled by FacilitiesNet Staff
With recent tragedies at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, to say nothing of the shootings at Columbine in 1999, school security measures are of paramount importance in today's educational environment.
Unfortunately, school security measures often don't get the consideration they deserve until a tragedy occurs. Facility managers should consider several school security measures to consider in advance of any problems.
First, don't underestimate the importance of having an emergency response plan in place. Having a plan and practicing it on a regular basis makes things go much more smoothly if an incident occurs. What's more, the emergency response plans need to avoid complacency - practice a range of events from weather emergencies to shootings.
Often what is learned in the first 24 hours following an incident is generally wrong, meaning decisions are being made based on faulty information. This is why planning and practicing are particularly crucial.
During the April 2007 shooting that killed 32 people at Virginia Tech, administrators and safety personnel first thought that they had a domestic situation on their hands because of what they initially found and were told. But as more information was gathered and the shootings continued on another part of campus, they realized they were wrong and the situation was much worse.
The most effective school security measures come from those organizations that conduct a building security audit. In its simplest terms, a building security audit looks for threats that could disrupt a facility and its operations. These include but are not limited to: threats or attacks on housed employees or visitors; damage to facility components or systems that will affect occupants; and damage to the area around the facility affecting non-building property or the ability of occupants to safely evacuate the building.
Universities should take a hard look at the security measures they have and those they might need. For example, some lecture halls have several side exit doors. Are those doors locked? Does the staff know whether the doors should be locked, and if so, when? Or would it be appropriate to remove exterior door hardware?
Are the classrooms lockable? Should they be?
Other school security measures to consider: Placing cameras throughout a campus or building, which would allow personnel to see, and possibly videotape, movements of anyone within the camera's field of view. There are also computer-assisted design programs in 3-D that can map how many people are in a room.